Little girls have been perched in front of their mommies' vanity mirrors smothering on creams, rouges and lipsticks probably since the time Cleopatra first rubbed some Nile kohl around her eyes. The magnetic tug of a mascara wand to a little girl’s hand may be more innate than sucking a pacifier. Forget about the binkies – those were rejected by my daughter, but a jet black Maybelline, now that could always distract her.
While little girls have been smacking their lips on strawberry Bonne Bell for decades and begging for pierced ears, what is new is the Kiddie Salon-ification of society. Girls too young to even read the name on the nail polish bottle, today are getting regular manicures and blow outs. And by high school, highlights and laser hair removal are all the rage.
Newsweek recently did a story about kiddie spas spawning around the country and interestingly, this is not just an obnoxious New York/L.A. thing. From Madison, Wisconsin, to San Antonio, Texas, spas catering to the 0-12 crowd are finding a huge audience.
This was not a shock to me. Within five miles of where I live in New Jersey there are two children salons. And I must confess, I too am guilty of kiddie primping.
Last year for my daughter Lexi’s fifth birthday we had a “glamour party” at one of these overpriced spa shops where after the girls’ hair was braided, blown and flat ironed and makeup and nails exquisitely done, the girls put on fancy outfits and walked the catwalk to an awaiting group of paparazzi parents. I felt a weird combination of pride and horror by how comfortable my daughter – who was still in pre-k – looked as she strutted and vogued for her audience.
While the spectacle of little girls in hair and makeup was both super cute and super scary ala Jon Benet Ramsey, I did agonize about the psychological implication of Lexi’s glamour bash. What next, a pole dancing party in third grade? Two years earlier for Lexi’s third birthday we did a princess tea party. The princess theme made me squeamish because I am a notorious Cinderella bigot. But when the Parteaz lady decked out my dining room in tulle and tea sets and outfitted the girls in gloves and flowing dresses, I too was swooning.
I could blame society and Hannah Montana, but the truth is I am definitely accountable for some of my daughter’s pathology with beauty. Because it’s convenient and fun, I have taken my daughter to the salon with me since she was an infant. By the time she turns six, Lexi will probably have had more manis and pedis than I had at twenty-six.
And as much as I compliment my daughter’s natural curls, she’s become desperate for straight hair. “Mommy, your hair is straight. I want my hair straight too!” Lexi says. But my hair is not straight – it is Lexi’s hair with $400 worth of Asian style straightening systems chemically transforming my frizzy follicles into soft, sleek, almost straight hair.
But recently, as I’ve watched my daughter commit more and more time in front of the mirror flipping her curls and studying her sweet face, I’ve become more concerned about indulging her inner diva by our weekend spa visits. Yes, she can still express herself by painting her nails neon yellow or blue, but I’m now the manicurist without the salon hand massage. I don’t want a sophisticated six-year-old who believes that she needs to outsource to be beautiful.
So as much as I’ve thought it’s precious to play dress up and get fancy with my little girl, I’m over the spa scene. I’m ready for summer so Lexi can scrape her knees and dig in the dirt again. And bring on that humidity so I can tousle more of Lexi’s luscious, tight curls, tamed, of course, with styling gel.